Pablo Picasso’s Tête D’homme À La Pipe, 1971. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DOMINIQUE LÉVY GALLERY © 2013 ESTATE OF PABLO PICASSO / ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.
BASEL, SWITZERLAND - Fresh on the heels of Art Basel Hong Kong and the opening of the Venice Biennale comes the original classy art fair: Art Basel. More than 300 galleries are on tap for this year’s 33rd edition which runs 13-16 June. It can be said that every other art fair is in large measure patterning itself after this one. Less blingy and hyperactive than its Miami sibling and more Old World than the Frieze fairs, it’s where the business of the art market gets done in a civilized manner over a kaffee mit schlag.
If there were some kind of attendance award for art fairs, it would certainly go to Dominique Lévy, the chic Swiss-born dealer who was, until recently, half of L&M Arts with Robert Mnunchin. “I’ve been going to Basel since I was three years old,” she told me last week from her home base in New York City. “[I'm] one of the few people who has been to every one since it was founded.” She clarified, however, that she was not selling valuable paintings as a toddler. “I grew up in Lausanne, and my parents were passionate about art. They pushed me around in a stroller.”
Robert Ryman’s Untitled, 1966. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DOMINIQUE LÉVY GALLERY © 2013 ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.
For this Basel, she’s hanging her own, newly independent shingle as Dominique Lévy Gallery. “It’s a classic European and American postwar booth,” she said of the mix of works that will be on display. “I have an untitled Robert Ryman ‘Windsor’ painting from the 1960s, and I have built the booth around it. And I managed to secure the best Picasso drawing I have seen in many years, from 1971. The man was in his eighties, but he had such vigor and energy.”
As for the energy required to keep up with the world-spanning roster of art events lately, Lévy admitted that it was taxing. “It’s very busy -- I skipped Venice, I couldn’t go to it all,” she told me. Basel Hong Kong went well, but wasn’t boffo for sales since the fair is just establishing itself, she said. “The good news is, the fairs are in such different parts of the world, you’re not exhausting collectors in one place.”